Orange BOE candidates to square off at NAACP forum

Photos by Chris Sykes
Jody Leight of the Orange Citizens Action Group, third from left, stands on Saturday, Oct. 13, at the community forum the group organized at the Epiphany and Christ Episcopal Church on Main Street with five of the six candidates vying for the three seats on the Orange Board of Education that are up for grabs in the election on Tuesday, Nov. 6.

ORANGE, NJ — Six candidates vying for the three available seats on the Orange Board of Education in the election on Tuesday, Nov. 6, will meet at 7 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 22, at a Candidate’s Night Forum at St. Matthew AME Church on Oakwood Avenue, hosted by Oranges-Maplewood branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

“Our unit is planning on having a debate among the BOE candidates on the evening of October 22,” confirmed Orange-Maplewood NAACP President Tom Puryear on Monday, Aug. 27.

Puryear is also a member of the statewide NAACP’s Education Committee, which has taken on issues of education and racial bias and discrimination in South Orange and Maplewood, and his local chapter recently honored the Committee for an Elected Orange School Board with its 2018 Education Award at the 105th annual Freedom Fund Awards Banquet in April. The committee received the award in recognition of its work in leading the change in Orange from a Type 1 school district to a Type 2 school district.

According to Essex County Clerk Chris Durkin, the six candidates who submitted nominating petitions to run in the Orange Board of Education’s election for three-years terms are Siaka Sherif, Derrick Henry, Brenda Daughtry, Hamza S. Agwedicham, Jarteau Israel and Rhoda O. Irodia.

“If a school board election is held in April, it is managed by the local school board. If the local school board decides to move its election to the November general election, then the election is run by the county election offices,” said Durkin who is handling Orange Board of Education election, on Wednesday, Sept. 19. “Petitions were due on the last Monday of July and were submitted to the county Clerk’s Office. I held a ballot draw on Monday, Aug. 13. Voters will be asked to vote for three members for three-year terms in office.”

Puryear said Durkin’s plans “are aligned with state statutes.”

“The Orange Board of Education chose to move elections to November,” said Puryear on Tuesday, Sept. 25. “By their actions, the (Orange Board of Education) denied citizens the opportunity to address the pending proposed school budgets, which is also consistent with statutes. To be clear: Citizens cannot vote to approve or reject a school budget, as long as the budget remains under 2 percent.”

The Rev. Anthony Johnson, a member of the Committee for an Elected Orange School Board, said that group has been disbanded and replaced by the new Orange Citizens Action Group, which hosted the first of two community forums at Epiphany and Christ Episcopal Church on Main Street on Saturday, Oct. 13.

“The work of the Committee for an Elected Orange School Board was completed, with the passage in 2017 of the referendum making the Orange board an elected body. Therefore, the committee disbanded,” said Johnson on Sunday, Oct. 7. “However, there were two reasons to organize the new group. First, since the transition to an elected board will take three election cycles, there is still work to do to encourage qualified candidates to run and educate voters on elected school district governance. Second, voter turnout in Orange has been unacceptably low for years and it is important that a larger percentage than in past elections vote, in order to elect the best board members possible.”

The Orange Citizens Action Group’s next community forum is scheduled for Sunday, Oct. 28, at the Valley Arts building at 400 South Jefferson St., Orange.

“All six candidates for election have been invited to participate,” said Johnson on Monday, Oct. 8. “We have given the candidates the same three questions to answer briefly in writing for a brochure that will allow voters who do not attend the forums to know what the candidates think about the key issues. If a candidate does not answer before the brochure goes to press, the failure to answer will be noted in print.”

In a school board election on Tuesday, March 13, to elect two new board members, Tarver won a seat for a term of two years and eight months, and Sherif won a seat for a term of eight months. Now Sherif will run against the other candidates for one of the three board seats available in the November election.

Johnson said, “The Orange Citizens Action Group is committed to voter education and outreach” and continuing the work that the Committee for an Elected Orange School Board started, but “does not endorse candidates for election.”